Congressmen look to end controversial visa lottery for terrorist countries
Each year in the United States the immigration department holds a lottery where 50,000 immigrants who seek to reside in America can win the golden ticket and gain legal entry into the country. The popular program is only available for those countries that do not send a large number of immigrants to the U.S.
In an effort to remove any possible security risks, Congressmen Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) have asked Chairman of the Judiciary committee, John Conyers (D-MI) urging the committee to consider eliminating the annual visa lottery. (Note: state sponsors of terrorism are not excluded from the lottery.)
The Congressmen pointed out countries that are eligible for the visa lottery include; Iran, Sudan, Cuba as well as 13 of the 14 nations the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) crack down on airport security, including Nigeria home country of the Christmas Day terrorist incident.
“The visa lottery program poses a national security threat. Under the program, each successful applicant is chosen at random and given the status of permanent resident based on pure luck,” Rep. Goodlatte explained. “Usually, immigrant visas are issued to foreign nationals who have an existing connection with a family member lawfully residing in the United States or with a U.S. employer. These types of relationships help to ensure that immigrants entering the country have a stake in our nation’s continued success, and have needed skills to contribute to our nation’s economy. However, under the visa lottery program, visas are awarded to immigrants at random without meeting such criteria.”
Congressman Smith continued to say the visa lottery is a dangerous game with our national security. “America already has the most generous immigration policy in the world, admitting over one million legal immigrants each year. But under the current lottery system, up to 50,000 randomly selected alien applicants win visas each year, many from countries with a significant terrorist presence.”
In 2007, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report stating the visa lottery system “is vulnerable to fraudulent activity committed by and against applicants…” The report continued to say “widespread use of fake documents, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates and passports, presented challenges in the government’s ability to verify the identities of applicants and dependents.”
In addition to this report, at the 109th Congress, the State Department Inspector General testified before Congress that the visa lottery “contains significant risks to national security from hostile intelligence officers, criminals and terrorists attempting to use the program for entry into the U.S. as permanent residents.” Unfortunately, Smith pointed out that the House Committee on the Judiciary has not held hearings on this subject since Democrats took control of Congress in 2006.
“The nature of the lottery is such that we have no control over who applies for admission to our nation,” Goodlatte said. “This flawed policy is just foolish in the age in which we live. Those in the world who wish us harm can easily engage in this statistical gamble with nothing to lose.”
Congressman Goodlatte also introduced the Visa Lottery Elimination Act on May 7, 2009 and the legislation currently resides within the House Judiciary Committee. Perhaps now the Democratic leadership within the committee will put this bill at the top of their “to do list.”
Of coarse there are many ways to combat terrorism and good ideas are sorely needed, but for our country’s security officials to fail the American people and allow a terrorist to board a flight paying cash, checking in no luggage and having his father’s statement to U.S. State officials regarding the radicalization of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab by Yemeni al-Qaeda leaders go unchecked- proves the system failed.
“The best way to prevent a terrorist attack on U.S. soil is to stop terrorists before they reach the U.S. Even the President said that airport screening measures are not foolproof. The first line of defense against foreign terrorists is our visa process—which clearly broke down in the Christmas Day plot and almost cost the lives of 290 innocent individuals,” Rep. Smith pointed out. “But the Christmas Day attack is not the first time terrorists have obtained U.S. visas. Several of the 9/11 hijackers did so as well. The Christmas Day terrorist attack is a grim reminder that the terrorist threat is alive and well and that our work is not yet done.”
With the White House in full scramble mode regarding the latest terrorist attack aboard an American airliner, it is up to Congress to act upon the failed policies put in place and make every effort to prevent all Americans from another devastating 9/11-style attack.
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